Are you an enabler?

When someone you love is in trouble it’s natural to want to help them. Whether it’s lending a hand with some bills, providing emotional support, or doing some chores for them, it feels like any little thing to get back on their feet must be good.

Helping your child, parent or spouse through a bad situation is a kindness. But when your loved one is an addict who isn’t willing to seek treatment, these actions can enable them to prolong their addiction. It can also create a co-dependence by making the enabler feel needed and more in control of the situation.

So, how do you know if you’re enabling or helping? It can be a fine line, but the main difference is whether your assistance is allowing them to avoid getting help for themselves.

Examples of enabling someone with addiction:

  • Ignoring bad behaviour or dismissing it as a phase.
  • Paying your loved one’s share of the bills such as rent, electricity or car repayments.
  • Bailing them out of jail or hiring a lawyer.
  • Giving them cash or buying groceries.
  • Letting your loved one take out their anger on you.
  • Paying for counselling services before they’re ready to commit to recovery.
  • Taking out loans on their behalf.
  • Giving them a job or making excuses to their boss if they miss work.
  • Doing their housework or driving them around.
  • Taking care of their children so they can go out.
  • Paying for their drugs or alcohol.
  • Putting your loved one’s needs ahead of your own.

A key part of active addiction is manipulating others to get what you want. This may be to avoid being discovered or going into treatment. Your loved one may try to make you feel bad and suggest you don’t want to see them get better if you don’t help. Addiction affects the whole family and family issues and broken relationships are common.

Remember, addicts must make the decision to participate in treatment themselves. Enabling them allows them to avoid making that decision. It can also be a financial and emotional drain on the rest of the family.

Losing their job or facing eviction may be the shock your loved one needs to see how out of control their life has become. Watching that happen is hard but may be in your loved one’s best interest in the long run. None of us has the power to change someone else’s behaviour¾we can only choose to change our own.

The best thing you can do to help is encourage them to seek professional treatment. Regardless of whether your loved one begins treatment, attending group therapy or personal counselling can you break the cycle of enabling someone with addiction.

The Hader Clinic’s family intervention services can help you start the conversation and encourage your loved one to accept treatment. Once your loved one is on the recovery journey, our family therapy can support everyone in the family work through their individual trauma and to improve family relationships.

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